A Terminal Lesson: Air Travel Gurus

1:1 = ARCHITECTS BUILD SMALL SPACES : @ THE V&A London, UK : LOOK and FEEL : BEYOND : OBVIOUS : EXPLORE : HIDDEN DEPTH : Enjoy the LEARNING : curve! :)I feel myself involuntarily exhaling as I enter the parking garage at Philadelphia International Airport for yet another flight and another set hassles that will test the very fiber of my existence. Air travel is a remarkable adventure where we are somehow convinced to exercise the abnormal as a means of normalcy.

Where else would we actually pay hundreds of dollars for inconvenience after inconvenience? Air travel sees us pay a high price to, at least in Philadelphia, struggle to find decent parking. Imagine if a salesperson told you, “if you pay me, I will make you drive all over the place for that one treasured spot that may or may not exist anywhere near where you need it to.” Would you give him your money? Or would you slam the door in his face and never answer a call from him again?

Then imagine I, as that remarkable sales person who tried to sell you a parking spot that did not exist where you needed it to, also said to you, “If you pay me hundreds of dollars, I will make you get to my place of business hours before you need to, and then I will make you stand in a long line for the privilege of being searched. For your business, I will not guarantee happy employees, or courteous service anywhere along the line. You will, most likely, be faced with rude service people, bossy employees, and other patrons who are frustrated like you.” What would you say to me as that salesperson?

I’m still not done with you though as this wonderful experience is not yet over. After you deal with those wonderful long lines, I then had you hike a mighty hike just to get to the product you paid for. Once there, you would likely have to face even more discourteous employees just to stand in another line that will end with your ass being crammed into a rather uncomfortable seat that was likely installed before you first voted. What would your impression of my product be? Would you deem it as something you’d want to buy?

I haven’t even gotten to the part where, after you’ve paid me hundreds of dollars, I make you walk into eternity to get a bag you’ve entrusted me to get to your destination. I’ve also forgotten to read to you the disclaimer that says your bag may not even arrive as I told you it would. You’ll stand there for an interminable amount of time waiting for something that did not arrive as promised.  Do not fret though, I will deliver it to you once (and if) it actually shows up.  Just please don’t forget to tip the guy who made it all perfect by dropping off the bad at some ungodly hour of the night.

Yet despite it all here I sit on that uncomfortable seat yet again wondering if the executives at US Airways actually fly their own airline. If they do, I doubt that they have our experience while doing so. I was wondering aloud while waiting in the first long line of the day if the people who run Philadelphia International Airport actually use their own airport. I wondered if they actually have to use the same parking as the rest of us do. I wondered if they had to wait in line like the rest of us have to. I wondered if they had to deal with the same angry-acting employees that we all seem to run into.

I really doubt that any conscientious employee could use this service they sell and actually think it is worth what they charge. I sincerely doubt that anyone who runs the airport believes they are doing the best that they can. I really could not fathom that the executives at US Airways believe they are providing the best service they can for the price. In fact, I had this funny thought that the people who run PHL must use a small airport when traveling or, at the very least, have some special privileges that get them from having to experience their product like the average traveler does. It’s why nothing really changes, similar to the reason our Congress is the fucked up delusion is has turned out to be.

I even had this rather humorous vision (to me anyway) that the executives at US Airways charter flights in order to avoid having to use a competitive airline.  They certainly don’t use their own airline or, at the very least, they don’t get to experience it the way the rest of us do.  I’m sure the same asshole at the gate counter I saw this morning smiles and acts all kinds of wonderful when his boss goes to the front of the line and sits in first class. I’m sure that rude, disgruntled employee who treated the woman in front of me with such utter disrespect is all polite when a boss is around. Obviously that employee is being rude to the wrong people, he needs to be rude to his bosses that make his life so miserable and nicer to those who are using his airline and sharing in his misery.

There is one saving grace though. The flight attendants are awesome. I imagine they have the same misery the rest of their company shares (except, of course, the executives) but they seem to find a way to smile through it. They do what they can to make up for the experience we are having, and I have always applauded them. I’ve always believed that if any employee of an airline should be miserable it is the flight attendants, yet here is another in a long line of crews I have met smiling, serving, and trying to make this experience one that I won’t totally dislike. Yes, I will take a bottle of water.  Thanks for asking politely. Thanks for smiling. Thanks for serving.

That leads me to the real point I am trying to get to here. There is a reason I am sitting in a seat that won’t recline after dealing with rudeness, inconvenience and having my atmosphere invaded, smiling and happy. Although it may seem I’ve focused on the issues of air travel I promise you I am merely describing the reality of air travel as I’ve experienced it. What I’ve chosen to focus on is the practice of keeping “who I am” during the challenges of the day. I choose to stick with my higher vibrations while standing in the first long line. I even told a few jokes to people around me that got some laughs even from those who seemed miserable before I decided to humor myself. The line moved along and I moved along with it. That happy mood followed me into the other long line and into the actual security area where I again went with the flow. As I approached the place where my privacy was to be invaded, I took off my shoes and stood there barefoot. I decided to focus on the feel of my feet on the carpet, then the tile. Yes, I believe I can create the place where I stand into a happy place, and that I did. I even caught myself smiling as I walked into the scanner.  I focused on the fact that this process is there to make me as safe as can be expected miles above the planet, so I was happy to go through it.  More importantly, I was happy all those around me had to go through it. So, yes, I smiled.

I guess my penis, rectum and everything else checked out safe because I breezed on through. Now, I am sitting on my uncomfortable seat listening to the flight attendant telling jokes.  He’s really quite funny, and although most of the people around us have chosen to sit in their misery and ignore his attempts and humor, I’m laughing as I try to decide between water or coffee. I’ve chosen water, and he suggested ice. Thank you, funny man, in so many ways.

I’m also happy I’m writing.  Sure, in this cramped space it looks like I have forearms coming out of my rib cage,  but I am writing. So, do I want to focus on the cramped space or do I want to focus on the fact that I am writing? I’ve chosen to focus on the fact that I am writing and, yes, that has made me smile. I’m sure I will find happiness in this as long as I choose to, or at least until my hands become numb. That may change my focus, at least for a little while.

The beautiful thing about free will is that it allows us to make choices that directly impact our experience. We are free to see things as we choose and free to change our minds at any time. When my hands grow numb I will see that as a bad thing.  Maybe. Perhaps I will see it as a signal that it’s time for me to read, or do some other variance of work-related things. Perhaps I won’t see it as bad at all but rather another in a long line of experiences that influence my present moment. Maybe I won’t judge it.  Whichever I choose, it is a choice that I am free to make regardless of what mom and dad taught me about it. I am free to see things as I want, in the way I want.  How awesome and powerful is that??!!

Free will is not really “free” though when viewing it in the “currency” mindset. It comes at the direct price of your experience. Believe me, if you choose to be miserable and to focus on the negatives of this experience there is a price. You will be negative and you will be miserable, and that will attract misery and negative experiences into your life. If you choose to focus on the positives and choose to be happy in this experience the price you pay is that you will have a positive and happy experience while attracting positivity and happiness into your life. You are completely and utterly free to make that choice, and either one is the perfect one for you until you’ve decided it isn’t  Then, you are free to make another. You are free to go through this life mindlessly or you are free to go through it mindfully again regardless of what mom and dad taught you or what some preacher says from a pulpit. You are free to write your own book in any way you wish just as you are free to live your life according the book someone else has written. Either one is a valid and perfect choice, even if you have no idea of the power you have when you make it. And yes, you have that power in each and every aspect of your life’s experience.

With that in mind I’ve chosen to make experience my religion and I work daily to experience this life through my own “eyes” and not the experiences of others (like living religiously through a bible which is, in essence, a written experience of someone else). I’ve chosen to make action my prayer. I never ask for anything when praying despite what my past conditioning has taught me.  Instead, I either state an intention (as in praying for someone else’s well-being) or do something. I don’t ask for peace, I become peaceful. I don’t ask for an end to hunger, I feed someone. I realize to some that asking is, in fact, an action, but to me asking is nothing more than trying to get someone (or something) to act for us.

It has been said that experience is the best teacher. If that is true, then it must be the best religion. Look at my experience today. I’ve found that I want to be happy, so I did things to make me happy. I didn’t ask for happiness, I acted in ways that made me happy. Even as I just looked outside my window to the ocean miles below me I didn’t ask for safety.  Why? Because I have no control over it, and I doubt highly that there is something out there who views my safety as either necessary or something of concern. If I am to plummet to Earth then so be it; it must be an experience I need to have before I have the experience of leaving this place, so maybe it would be the ultimate practice of surrender and choice. Hhhhhmmmm.

Well, my hands are starting to cramp. I hope you’ve chosen to enjoy this sharing as I have enjoyed my choice to write it.


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